Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm a member of the Junior League of Washington and this year is the organization's 100th anniversary.

JLW's focus is literacy.  To celebrate 100 years in DC, the league set a goal to donate 100,000 books to children in DC who, otherwise, might not have any books of their own.  To achieve this goal, the league decided to host two fundraising events.  We hosted a luncheon last fall and this past weekend, we held a gala called Fete.  L and I went along with another couple.  Obviously the other girl and I were more excited about the event than the boys because sometimes it's just fun to dress up, right?

I knew I wasn't going to buy a new dress for this event (How old does clothing have to be to call it vintage?  If the answer is 10 years or older, then I opted to wear vintage Nicole Miller), so I instead I decided to hit up Dry Bar and get a blow out.  This might be the best decision I've ever made.  I freaking loved it!

The whole salon is grey, white, and yellow (which I loved).  The fun, fitting, and cheeky chandelier in the lobby:

They served me a fab mimosa in an ombre (ombre!!  Queue the obsession with ombre/dip dye/tie dye) glass.

And the whole time, The Devil Wears Prada was playing (love!).  I selected the Cosmo-Tai style for my hair.  I couldn't have been happier with the end result.  Too bad I didn't take a pic when I got home!

The event itself was pretty fun.  My purse size only allowed for the most essential of items to come with me, which meant no camera.  Consequently, I have all of about 3 pics from the whole evening.

Yes, we had a pink carpet and a step and repeat.  Because why not??  I forgot to hit up the photo booth, though.  Oops.

I will say my hair lasted all night and still looked good on Sunday.  It still looked okay this morning, although with the gross weather we had today, it ended up looking not so hot by mid-afternoon.  Oh well - had to let it go at some point.  I can't wait to find another reason to hit up Dry Bar again, though!!  Totally well-spent money.  Highly recommend if you live in a city where there's a Dry Bar salon!

C is for Cookie, and Cookie is for Me

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My first recipe from Bouchon Bakery was the Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies.  Before I delve into the recap, I need to just rave a little about this cookbook.

First, if you haven't ever flipped through it, first of all, it's big.  Very big.  It has gorgeous pictures and amazing intros by all three contributors.  I read each of them and was immediately struck by how brilliant each of these chefs is.  Totally made me want to go to culinary or pastry school.  If only being a chef of any sort kept regular working hours!  Anyway, it's a beautiful book, both in pictures and words.  I still haven't finished reading all of the recipes and I just can't wait to give them a shot.

So back to the recipes!  I chose these cookies because chocolate chip is always my favorite kind of cookie and I figured I might as well ease into this cookbook.  While none of the recipes I've read through seem hard, they are definitely long and all involve weighing ingredients on a scale, rather than measuring volume with cups and spoons.  They're also detailed recipes - lots of steps.  Not hard, but it takes a little longer to make these than, say, the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse chocolate chip bag. 

I enjoy baking, but where I feel fine taking liberties with recipes for main courses and side dishes, I most definitely do NOT feel comfortable changing anything when it comes to baking. With that in mind, I really appreciated the exactness that comes with weighing your measurements, but weight measurements definitely require more prep work.  I now understand and appreciate mise en place cooking in a way I didn't previously. 

Each recipe has both weighted measurements and approximate volume measurements.  A note to anyone who may go on to purchase this book or who may be attempting to start weighing ingredients: I saw that this called for 60g of eggs.  For some reason, I thought that equated to 3 eggs (I have no idea why).  So, I cracked three eggs, scrambled them, strained them, and weighed out 60g.  I'm guessing that probably weighed about the same as just been one egg.  That means I was left with a bowl of scrambled eggs and I just wasn't really in the mood for a random plate of scrambled eggs to go along with my brisket and cookies.  Anyway, I'm assuming what might help for estimations in the future would be weighing the whole egg first and then subtracting a gram or two to account for the weight of the shell.  Then compare with what the recipe calls for and continue adding eggs to the scale until you reach a few grams higher than your desired weight.

Anyway, here's the spread of ingredients:

And here's the finished product:

In total, I think I probably spent 45 minutes to an hour prepping the dough.  I wasn't really timing myself, so this is a guess.  Were they better than my old recipe?  I would say yes - they definitely taste more "professional" and have a little something extra that my other chocolate chip recipes don't have (I think that thing is molasses, but I'm not sure.  Could just be the whole combination of ingredients).  The recipe also is supposed to only make 6 GIANT cookies.  I halved each one to make 12, and the cookies were still WAY bigger than what I would normally make with my regular cookie recipe.  This is a pic of a measured ball of dough:

It's hard to tell in the "final product" picture how big the cookies actually are.  To put things in perspective, here's a pic of one on a regular salad plate:

Yeah, it pretty much takes up the entire plate.  That makes them sort of fun and, I would imagine, a nice gift for someone in need of a baked good.  I wrapped up two and gave them to a co-worker for her and her husband to try.  Consensus: her husband ate both before she could try one, so I guess they were good!

Spice Up Your Life

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Well, I'm off and running with my 2013 resolutions.  Two weekends ago, I had a super productive weekend and knocked out my January cooking and got things shaped up in the den.  For this post, I'll focus on my Homesick Texan recipe.

With L's input, we decided to do the Coffee-Chipotle Oven Brisket and corresponding barbecue sauce.  We happened to have everything on hand to make it, so it just worked out.

Since I am not a proponent of copyright infringement, and because you can find this recipe elsewhere on the internet, I won't detail the recipe here, but I will say that I did have to make a few substitutions.  These are the ingredients I actually ended up using for the rub:

Since we didn't have any ground chipotle, I substituted cayenne pepper and paprika.  I have no idea what Lisa Fain's original recipe tastes like, but L and I both thought what I ended up with was pretty darn good.  I realize that since I changed the recipe slightly, it means I could just write it all out and post it here, but that still seems a little wrong.  And, I'm lazy right now.  A note if you ever opt to make this: the recipe calls for wrapping your brisket in two layers of foil before putting it in the oven.  I did more than that and I'm glad I did.  My roll of foil isn't super wide - it's just the standard width, and it wasn't wide enough in either direction for to have any one layer completely seal it shut, so I ended up with about four layers. 

Also, if you make this, you shouldn't have any apprehension about cooking food in foil.  L is one of those people who is a little hesitant about cooking with foil.  Since this cooks for six hours and then we rested it for another hour or so, I'm sure he'd say we'll probably die of foil toxins being absorbed by the foil if he knew how much foil I'd used.  So if I never post again, now you know why. 

Lisa (the actual homesick Texan and author of the cookbook) recommends putting the meat under the broiler for 5 minutes after you rest it and unwrap it.  I did that and wasn't amazed by the results.  However, the end result of the actual meat was that it was super tender and fell apart when I touched it with my fork.  The flavor was also really good - just enough spice to keep it interesting.  And apparently it smelled good, too.  Heisman was not allowed to have any, but he begged and begged for whatever it was we were eating.  Spicy brisket is not for 5 month-old puppies.

So, the sauce.  The sauce was really easy and we had everything on hand, just not quite enough of the Worcestershire sauce.  So rather than skimp, I just added some Kitchen Bouquet to make up for the missing amount.  Pretty good, but the end flavor definitely has a strong undertone of ketchup-y tang but with a nice kick of spice.  Not bad, just a warning for what the end result is. 

Sorry about all the shadows.  I took one without them, but I just realized it's a little blurry, so it's not actually any better.

Honestly, I think this may become our new go-to recipe until we figure out if we can ever get a smoker that meets our HOA's guidelines.  Definitely easy and tasty.  Great for a cold, rainy weekend meal. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

The first floor of our building is partially occupied by a brewery.  We have a growler and frequently have it filled at the brewery.  L said we needed special glassware to use when imbibing said beer.  (Sadly, I got rid of all our combined stolen barware once we got married.  It was time for an upgrade.  Joe Carney, I owe you quite a few pieces of used glassware.  Sorry.)  I envisioned something along these lines:

Schott Zwiesel Hefeweizen glassware from Pottery Barn

This is what L purchased and proudly showed me earlier this week when they arrived:

Yeah, those are Playboy pint glasses.

Have you ever seen A Christmas Story? If you haven't, you must not have cable TV because it's on multiple times every year and always for a full 24 hours on Christmas Day. Anyway, you know the infamous leg lamp? The major award that is the lit-up sex in the front window?

I can relate to the wife in this movie.  L thinks these are pretty cool.  The word "classy" was thrown out in conversation (I think we know who used that as a descriptor).  All I can say is that this is L's version of a major award. 

We're having friends over for a dog date and drinks tonight and I'm cringing at the thought of L pulling these out, because the guys will probably drink beer.  I'll be shopping for alternatives, hopefully this weekend.

Dog Days Are Over

Thursday, January 3, 2013

And so the new dog parenting continues.  It would seem we're experiencing a bit of separation anxiety.  By we, I mean Heisman.  During his first week with us, we were crating him in the morning and enclosing him in the guest hallway and bathroom with his water bowl, a puppy pad, and toys in the afternoon.  Two afternoons in a row, we came home to scenes like this:

That blue and white mess is the remnants of the unused puppy pad.  Clearly someone was either very unhappy or very bored.  Based on the amount of crying we've heard, we're thinking the former.

On another afternoon, I came home from work and found him in the enclosed hallway and VERY excited to see me (ALWAYS very excited - there's a whole face/hair licking routine that we're trying to train him out of, which is a little sad because it's SO cute and sweet, but it's not polite).  I checked the bathroom for accidents and saw this on the bathmat:

Clearly there was an accident and L must have been in a hurry, right?  Sort of.  There was an accident, but when I asked L about it, he had no idea what I was talking about.  Notably, there was not one single square of toilet paper left on the roll, but L is occasionally known for not putting a new roll on, so I thought nothing of it.  The real story is that apparently Heisman used the rug instead of his puppy pad, then immediately discovered the toilet paper, pulled it all off the roll, and SOMEHOW managed to blot up his own accident.  WHO'S IMPRESSED???  I sure was.  I wish he could talk.  He also peed on L one day at lunch (apparently there was pee on every article of L's clothing, including his coat) and on another day, Heisman had an accident in his crate.  You know what makes you feel like a terrible puppy parent?  When your puppy can't hold it and has to go in his crate.  Poor Heisman was so upset when I got home.  Since then, we've started moving Heisman's crate into the living room during the day and leaving him there both morning and afternoon.  L usually tries to turn on the TV or iPod for some background noise, too, and I reload Heisman's kong toy each evening with treats and seal it with peanut butter and then freeze it.  So far, this has made for a happier, calmer pup when I get home each night.

We took Heisman with us to Dallas for Christmas.  Like any new, proud parents, we wanted to show off our new little guy and introduce him to his relatives.  I had high expectations for how the meet and greet with Boomer would go and, for the most part, they were fulfilled.

The first day and a half involved lots of snuggling and napping with both pups on the couch.  After that, Heisman just really wanted to play with Boomer ALLTHETIME, and poor Boomie was just not that interested in Heisman's energy level. However, Boomer was very patient and kind and tolerant of young Heisman. The funniest part was the night we got in.  I have never thought of sweet Boomer as being a big dog.  Compared to Heisman, Boomer is HUGE.  We couldn't stop laughing about this the entire time we were at my parents' house.

My mom gave Heisman a variety of clothing (natch).  We have a little argyle sweater, a fleece turtleneck, and a puffer coat, complete with a fur-lined hood (faux, obvi). Heisman likes the turtleneck the best, but he doesn't mind the puffer coat too much in colder weather.  He wears the sweater indoors only at the moment.  This was his first experience with snow on Christmas day:

Heisman was not impressed.  Immediately after this, he looked up at me like, "Seriously, Mom?  What the deuce is this?  I'm going inside," and then he ran straight to the backdoor.

Since then, we've heavily reinforced his paper training and signed him up for puppy school (we start next Wednesday).  We think he's cutting some new molars because we're in a heavy chewing mode.  Just like a human baby, he wants to put EVERYTHING in his mouth, including hands, our noses, hair, etc.  Any tips on how to stop the nipping and chewing??  I know this is just the beginning of the teething - he's due to lose his baby teeth in the next month or two.

The best part about Heisman is how well L has responded to him.  L has told me more than once that he just loves Heisman so much.  I about fell off the couch the first time he walked over and professed his love to Heisman.  I seriously never saw that coming, and especially not within the first week and a half of owning him.  Just proof that we really did get the right pup for us.

New Year's Day

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New year's resolutions.  Everyone's supposed to do them, right?  Here's my short list:

1. Start blogging more again.  Got really bad about this in 2012.  Hoping to get back into it.

2. Hang all the artwork in the den before my mom comes up for MLK weekend.

3. Take pics of the den and blog about it.

4. Make one new recipe from the following cookbooks each month:

Soooo many great recipes in both that are calling my name.  Hopefully, this will help get me back into cooking.  Bonus points if I can also make a recipe I find on Pinterest or on a blog, but for now, we'll officially start with these two cookbooks.  I'll try and keep you posted by (hopefully) blogging about it.

5. Train Heisman with basic commands.

6. Ease back into regularly working out.  The spill I took at the end of July still gives me problems from time to time in my right ankle (like this week, for instance).  As such, I don't work out with the same frequency that I used to because I'm always afraid of overdoing it and exacerbating the issue. 

7. Lastly, continue reading at least one book each month.  I enjoyed this goal last year, so it seems fitting to do it again this year.

If You Could Read My Mind

Friday, December 28, 2012

One of my 2012 goals/resolutions was to read more.  I specifically was trying to target at least one book per month.  I actually met that quota (woo hoo!) although that's largely due to the fact that apparently, I enjoy reading books written for a demographic that is 10-20 years younger than me.  I'm so cool and smart.  My list of what I've read this year is below.  Except it might be missing a few entries because it seems like I've read a few more than this, but if I did, I didn't record them in my Goodreads.  Oh well.  You'll get the gist of it.

I started the year off with books 2 and 3 the Hunger Games trilogy, and I actually read the first two twice after I finished the series the first time. 

The Night Circus was recommended by my bff.  I wanted to like it so much (the cover art alone is just so great!), but it didn't satisfy me.  I liked the idea of the book, but the actual execution and plot line just fell flat for me.  I get why it's written the way it is and why you don't know what's going on the whole time (it's like you're in the duel with Celia and Marco!  You're just as in the dark as they are!), but overall, not my fave. 

Then came Shanghai Girls.  I have no idea what prompted me to buy this, but I did.  If you like historical fiction, this was pretty good, but not one I'd say anyone has GOT to run out and read. 

Devil in the White City... I mean, what a GREAT book.  I knew basically nothing about the Chicago World's Fair prior to reading this, nor did I know anything at all about the serial killing spree that occurred during the same period.  This is so well-written and researched.  I can't imagine how many years the author spent pulling data together to create such a well-crafted book.  Looking forward to reading his book about Nazi Germany (which is a sentence I never thought I'd write).


Then came the Luxe series!  These were really light, easy reads (like, even easier than The Hunger Games books - these are definitely for the YA set).  Truth be told, I could have stopped reading after the first one, but I didn't have anything else in my reading queue yet and I had a mild curiosity about how the stories would end.  Because of the cover art, these are exceedingly embarrassing to take to the gym or to leave out on the coffee table when you have guests.  They totally look like period romance novels.  However, if you want to plow through a series in less than a month so you can feel good about yourself, this would be an ideal choice.

I read this book based on the recommendation of two friends.  It's cute and heartwarming, but if you're a skeptic and/or not a devout Christian, there are some easy plot holes to identify that will probably bother you. 

This is probably my favorite book from 2012.  Also recommended by my bff (she totally redeemed herself from The Night Circus rec), I couldn't put this down once I started. I knew a plot twist had to be coming based on how the story was playing out and the number of pages left in it, but I did NOT foresee the twist that it took.  LOVED it.  I went back and re-read the first part once I finished just to make sure I didn't miss anything.  If there's one book on this list you should read, it's this one!

And now, for my "currently reading but not yet finished" list:

Yeah, the puppy book isn't exactly compelling reading for the general public, but if you're parenting a new pup, this seems really good so far!  L and I have big plans to implement some of the exercises this weekend.  I'll finish this book and Mindy Kaling's before 2013 arrive.  Hornet's Nest will continue to be put on the back burner.
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